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Commemorating 50 years of National Service through art

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While he served as a combat medic during his national service (NS) days, artist Kevin Tan, 54, had always been inspired by the grit of the elite Guards unit, who undergo some of the toughest training in the army .

In May, he channelled his admiration into an acrylic painting he called "Vertical Valour", showing the Guardsmen rappelling from helicopters, contrasted against a blue-coloured night.

Mr Tan is one of 53 artists from the Singapore Art Society who are paying tribute to National Servicemen (NSmen), by depicting their lives, professionalism and dedication through art, as part of celebrations of 50 years of NS (NS50).

Together, they created 138 pieces of art - including oil paintings, bronze sculptures and Chinese calligraphy - to commemorate NS, which started in 1967.

On Saturday (June 24), the first of three public exhibitions showcasing 60 of the artworks was launched at the Ion Art Gallery, with Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung officiating the opening.

Mr Ong, who is also Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills), said: "The Singapore Art Society's initiative forms an important part of our cultural heritage and preserves the social memories of our people as a legacy to be handed down from one generation to the next."

Singapore Art Society president Terence Teo, said the art "aims to recognise the hardship and sacrifices by our past and present national servicemen, even in the most mundane of everyday tasks".

As part of the initiative called "Commemorating NS50 Through Art", the society's artists visited more than 20 Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team camps between December last year and this April to draw inspiration.

Artist Victor Ang, 50, said that the bravery of the NSmen in executing their missions led him to create a Chinese calligraphy using the words, wu wei (fearless).

Instead of a brush, Mr Ang, who was born in the year NS started, used tissue paper and ink to write the words on rice paper.

He said: "Singapore (also) has nothing to fear, because through NS, the nation is ready."

Designer Ronnie Chng, 38, who visited the exhibition on Saturday (June 24), said: "It brings back the memories of my time serving NS."

The Ion Art Gallery exhibition will be held till June 29 , and is open from 11am to 9pm daily. It will then move to The Arts House Gallery I, from July 2 to 15 (10am to 8pm daily).

The works will also be displayed at the Suntec Convention Centre Linkway 2, 3 and Concourse Area, from July 30 to August 13 (10am to 10pm daily).

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